Adele Brown (1910-2001)


Adele Brown, was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University in 1930.  Her letters, clippings and proposals for exhibits were donated to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.D. in 1966 

Adele grew up in Burlingame, California.  She moved with her family to Washington D.C. in 1922.  After graduating from Stanford in 1931, she moved back to Washington D.C.  She and Phil met when she fell while ice skating.  She was managing the Studio House at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington D.C. from 1937 TO 1939. She then became an exhibition assistant (1940-1942) for the Section of Fine Arts.  She was then asked to became a manager of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Washington gallery.  Later she was assistant to a New Deal agency charged with exhibiting art in public buildings.

In 1940 they bought a piece of property on a beautiful rural hilltop in Alexandria, Virginia and built a home where they raised Tim, Carin and Rex.  The earnest money on the home was $5 and a handshake.

Adele and Phil were early founders of Burgundy farm Country Day school, the first school to be integrated in Virginia and before the court mandated integration.  In 1951, she started an art department at Burgundy.  She and another teacher introduced the idea of “theme learning” where each year all the classes were taught around a theme such as American Indians or Egyptology.  She imparted her creativity to her students and peers.  Then from 1960 to 1064 she taught at the National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington D.C.  She frequently volunteered to teach art to poor children in the District of Columbia and Alexandria.

Adele was a fast and voracious reader, and instilled in her offspring the love of history, adventure and reading.  Like Phil, she was extremely well rounded and concerned about the happenings of the world.  In 1956, she drove her 3 children (ages 7, 9, & 12) across the country, which was quite an adventure as this was before interstate highways.  Visiting farms, wilderness area, old mines, planetariums, orchards, Indian reservations, Sequa forests, the building of Hoover Dam, and museums instilled in her children the desire for adventure, travel and see the world.

Adele possessed a unique capacity to understand people.  When you had a conversation with her, you left realizing something special just happened.  She had a way of asking penetrating questions in the most gentle, non-threatening way which encourage openness and sharing.

She was also a wonderful writer and wrote two books. Family Portrait, a book written to capture and pas on the personalities of her parents and paternal grandfather. Her second book, Letters Written During World War II, is a delightful and penetrating compilation of letters and observations she and Phil exchanged between 1943 through 1945, when he was in Europe with the O.S.S. during the war.

She cared about the world around her and fought for equal rights and the freedoms of others.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT ADELE’S PAPERS from the Archives of American Art